As the battle for talent rages on, skilled workers have the power to select their employer of choice. Companies realize that a successful retention strategy starts with acknowledging that they won’t solve their labor challenges by applying the solutions of the past. In that spirit, most organizations have embraced remote workers in some capacity. Two years into the remote work experience, what have we learned, and does this model benefit everyone?
There are different pro and con arguments for remote/hybrid working. These center around how different employers perceive remote working and the inherent culture of the organization. In order to make remote work a sustainable long-term solution for employers, several challenges need to be addressed. What does a manager need to address to support their remote employees, and how do they know if the model isn’t working?
Trust and connection. Nothing can replace an in-person conversation. We develop rapport, trust and relationships by connecting with others and absorbing their verbal and non-verbal cues. It is more challenging to do this on video. Further, when there is no real connection or trust between an employee and manager, it is harder to delegate tasks, work in teams and accomplish business objectives. In addition, less trust and connection to an employer breeds workers that are flight risks. Managers must communicate consistently, be transparent and work on resourceful solutions to connect with their remote workers to build trust and loyalty.
Training and mentoring. In the work-from-home model, many newer employees struggle to receive the needed coaching required to be successful in their roles. We learn through hands-on experience and mentors that can teach us on the spot. In addition to formalized training programs, consider establishing a mentor/mentee program in your organization to foster a sense of community among workers and help individuals get the personalized attention they need.
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Collaboration and teamwork. Remote workers may find it harder to achieve their work objectives and deliver results because they don’t have the face-to-face opportunity to cooperate and collaborate with team members. Video can make it harder to exchange information, answer questions, make decisions and solve problems. Ultimately, this can impact the employee’s performance. It is crucial for managers to focus attention on communication and recognition within the team. Simple tactics like team building exercises and recognition programs can pay dividends to elevate team morale, foster partnerships and solidify the group relationship.
Decreased visibility. The old adage “out of sight is out of mind” has credence in the workplace. How often in our career have we been able to make an impact through a live interaction in a meeting with peers, customers or upper management? Limited visibility of remote workers can disconnect them from company culture and overall recognition. Eventually, this leads to them being minimized and overlooked for critical projects and promotions. The onus is on the manager and the employee to enlist creative ways to be noticeable and work effectively with all team members.
Distractions. If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that not all people are cut out for remote work. Some people are susceptible to distractions in the home and need more structure in their day to keep them on track and productive. Everyone is not a disciplined self-starter, unfortunately. It is the dual responsibility of the manager and employee to recognize personality styles and distractions, making adjustments back to the office if needed.
The long term. Workplace success is heavily predicated on accessibility, visibility, teamwork and the ability to produce results. Ultimately, it is the duty of both the employee and the manager to spot areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement and then set forth an action plan to get back on track. Both parties must be engaged and communicative. Many employees are impactful as a remote/hybrid worker, while others struggle due to lack of training, poor connection to the environment or distractions. It is critical that managers and employees partner and recognize when the model isn’t working, which could necessitate a return to the office full time. The end goal is that managers and employees thrive, feel connected to the organization through meaningful work and deliver outcomes no matter what model is utilized.